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From Parts to Products: Why Trade Logistics Matter

MD Staff

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Take a close look at your smart phone for a moment. What do you see? A glass screen. A button equipped with fingerprint recognition. A camera lens, flashlight, microphone, and speaker. Each of these components, and others – including chips, processors, batteries – are independently sourced from companies located all over the world and assembled into a finished product at factories, often in China. Any smart phone you purchase, and its components, has likely passed through customs several times, landed on multiple countries and continents, and been touched by countless workers.

Logistics makes all this possible. A $4.3 trillion industry affecting nearly every country in the world, logistics is the network of services that supports the physical movement of goods within and across borders. It comprises an array of activities including transportation, warehousing, brokerage, express delivery, terminal operations, and even data and information management. How efficiently goods can move through these systems to their final destinations is a key determinant to a country’s trade opportunities.

“Logistics are the backbone of global trade,” notes Caroline Freund, Director, Macroeconomics, Trade & Investment Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “As supply chains become more globally dispersed, the quality of a country’s logistics services can determine whether or not it can participate in the global economy.”

Benchmarking Logistics Performance

With trade and logistics touching so many areas of an economy, it can be difficult to get a complete picture of a country’s performance. This is why the Logistics Performance Index (LPI), part of the biennial report Connecting to Compete, evaluates countries across a number of indicators. The index, which takes into account factors such as including logistics competence and skills, the quality of trade-related infrastructure, the price of international shipments, and the frequency with which shipments reach their destination on time, helps governments benchmark their progress over time and in comparison to similar countries.

Utilizing surveys of logistics professionals, the LPI offers two perspectives on a country’s performance:

The domestic LPI offers quantitative and qualitative assessments of a country’s services from logistics professionals working inside the country. This component offers detailed information on a country’s infrastructure, quality of service providers, border procedures, and supply chain reliability.

The international LPI provides evaluations of a country’s services by logistics professionals located outside the country. This component provides qualitative information of how a country’s trading partners perceive the efficiency and quality of its logistics services.

The World Bank Group has been scoring countries on these issues every two years since the inaugural edition of Connecting to Compete in 2007. Consistently, high-income countries, particularly those in Western Europe, emerge as world leaders on logistics. In fact, the LPI score of high-income countries is 48% higher, on average, than low-income countries. Among the 30 top performing countries, 24 are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“Across the board, we have seen most countries investing in logistics-related reforms, especially in the areas of building infrastructure and facilitating trade,” explains Jean Francois-Arvis, Economist at the World Bank Group and report co-author. “Despite these efforts to modernize services, developing countries face many remaining challenges. This explains a persistent gap between high- and low-income countries in terms of logistics performance.”

But income alone is not the sole determinant of a country’s LPI score. Vietnam, Thailand, Rwanda, China and India all outperform their income groups.  These countries tend to have access to sea ports or large international transportation hubs.

For individual countries, logistics performance is key to their economic growth and competitiveness. Inefficient logistics raise the cost of doing business and reduce the potential for integration with global value chains. The toll can be particularly heavy for developing countries trying to compete in the global marketplace. Governments can use the LPI to better understand the link between logistics, trade, and growth, and what policies they can enact to globally compete.

2018 LPI: Key Findings

The top 10 performing countries have remained relatively unchanged over the past few years and tend to include high-income countries in Europe. Of the top 30 performers, 24 are members of the OECD.

The bottom 10 countries in the ranking are composed of mostly low-income and lower-middle-income countries. These are either fragile economies affected by armed conflict, natural disasters, political unrest, or landlocked countries that are naturally challenged by geography or economies of scale in connecting to global supply chains.

The LPI scores of high-income countries, on average, surpass low-income countries by 48 percent.

Among the lower-middle-income group countries, large economies such as India and Indonesia and emerging economies such as Vietnam and Cote d’Ivoire stand out as top performers. Most of these countries either have access to the sea or are located close to major transportation hubs.

There is currently a labor shortage of logistics professionals in both developed and developing countries. Developed countries need more blue-collar workers, such as truck drivers, while developing countries seek more managerial-level workers.

More countries perceive cybersecurity threats a risk to logistics. However, while 78% of high-income countries have increased their preparedness, only 26% of low-income countries have done so.

Given that 23% of all energy-related CO2 emissions can be attributed to transport, the environmental sustainability of logistics is an important emerging trend. Strong performers in logistics are the most likely to seek eco-friendly shipping options. In the top quintile of LPI performers, 28% of respondents indicated that shippers often or nearly always ask for environmentally friendly shipping options. In the bottom quintile, this percentage falls to just 5%.

World Bank

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Economy

Pandemic Recovery: Upskilling Government Saves Nations

Naseem Javed

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Urgently needed are “scientific-based-econo-political-thinking” with proven pragmatic capabilities to execute, because embossed degrees, old-fashioned election expertise with “political-science” studies now appear Machiavellian rhetoric. What works on the election podium is often useless will applied towards pandemic recovery. Nation-by-nation, during pandemic recovery, uplifting midsize business economy is now a number one challenge. Nation-by-nation the absence of hardcore expertise in Public Sector is adding to global crisis. In certain regions, the commonalities of calamities may create a domino fall. For the first time during the last century, the ‘commonalities of calamities’ now shared by the populace of the world. Now, this creates a rare opportunity to demonstrate national and continent wide tactical deployments towards recovery, collaborate by saving the prolonged agonies of humankind. Billion displaced, billion to starve and hundreds of millions in serious quandary. This is far more intricate what any Tik-Tok upgrades and Teleprompter shows can handle.

Understanding ground realities: Those who recently attended many dozens of national or global zoom events on government programs and ideas on economic survival often witnessed serious lack of contents, expertise or experiences, most importantly inability of most presenters to debate or question existing broken down systems. Observe the 75th United Nation meetings, outside very few countries, most nations are only reading the laundry list of the problems without any specific solutions.  It is also true, all are waiting for vaccines and this moves the date of ‘global normalcy’ to 2025. As economies start to crumble, seen as almost a national emergency by dozens of the 200 nations, the lack of special skills-sets and high-speed performance labeled a new crisis.  A quick test of any top frontline leadership on any 10-government agencies, in any nation mandated to foster economic growth will provide the real picture to this challenge. Upskilling is about expected performance levels and for smart nations to adapt, survive and save nations now mandated nation-by-nation by pandemic recovery. There is no escape. Ask Augustus Caesar.

Understanding Simultaneous Synchronization: The art and science of upskilling frontline government teams to tackle pandemic recovery and economic survivals are normal progressions, but only once deployed with an agenda. Furthermore, to resuscitate fatally wounded economies special global age skills mobilized, like creating digital platform economies where entrepreneurialism dances, creating upskilling and innovative excellence mobilization in simultaneous synchronizations, where exports fly, creating a vibrant globally attractive economy where investments rain. Such upskilling of Public Sectors deployments are often not new funding dependent but rather execution hungry and mobilization starved.  Study Expothon Strategy on Google for models.

The Facts: The world can easily absorb unlimited exportable ideas in unlimited vertical markets. Fact: The well-designed innovative ideas are worthy of such quadrupled volumes. Fact: The entrepreneurial and dormant talents of a nation are capable of such tasks. Fact: The new global age skills, knowledge and execution are now the missing links. Fact: fear of change is a false state of mind now corrected with upskilling mobilization.

The Warnings: The Shape of Pandemic Recovery is W: Depending on country, recovery spanning a year, a decade or even longer. Speed will save economies and avoid restless citizenry magnetized by populism. Study the specificity of your own regions and nations, identify voids on small medium business economy sectors and open debates. Follow the trail of silence and it may lead you to hidden conclaves and robed bureaucracies all afraid to change. Upskilling is a bright light in those dark tunnels.  Discover the art of transformation and power on enlightenment. Start with high-level zoomerang events and encourage dialogue.  

Understanding Upskilling of Public Sector: Across any single nation, Public Sector upskilling models work in simultaneous synchronization and can manage from 1000 to 100,000 participants.  How local grassroots manufacturing uplifts small medium enterprises for sharper productivity and exportability?  How foreign investments turn around economic performances. How ‘soft-power-asset-management’ the art of imagining things over ‘hard-asset-centricity’ where staying deeply stuck to old routines on old factory floors rewarded. This is when forbidden are the bicycle makers to dream of ‘drones’ or flying cars. Some 500 millions small and large plants and businesses around the world are badly stuck in old groves of decades old mentality, unable to transform, optimize to grow to new heights with new global age thinking and execution. Imagine all that wasted potential, talent and machinery, infrastructure under the dead weight of old concepts still logged into hard-assets based mentality. Pandemic recovery shows no mercy, therefore, understanding of the core proposition of any entrepreneurial venture is “extreme-value-creation” as a prime objective. Running wild on “extreme value manipulations” only creates hologramic economies and ponzy schemes. Quick study of any major financial publication will eliminate the need of any further proof.  

The world just changed, the pandemic recovery will change the world repeatedly and do it very quickly. Upskilling at all levels of frontline economic development teams anywhere around a world critically missing link. What is needed are bold and open discussions with diversity and tolerance and national goals to turn around the economy; explore national mobilization of entrepreneurialism as new thinking, explore master upskilling agenda as savior towards stability and superior performances to stand up to new challenges.

If you like, share this with right parties and join our thought leadership. The rest is easy. 

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Long trends and disruption: the anatomy of the “post world” of the COVID-19 crisis

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What will be the economic architecture of the world after the COVID-19 crisis? This question involves understanding the major trends at work for twenty years now.

The world that will emerge from this crisis will be marked by these major trends, which, for some, will be reinforced by this crisis. However, this crisis has created too specific disruptions, in particular in the field of transport and energy. It has also provoked an awareness of the centrality of sovereignty, and in particular of economic sovereignty. Finally, the economic and monetary policies that have been put in place to combat the economic effects of the epidemic and of containment will have long-term consequences on international financial balances.

An acceleration of the change of the world?

Since 2000, we have witnessed the rise of an “Asian bloc” to the detriment of what we might call the “Western bloc”, that is to say the United States, the European Union and the United States. Japan. This Asian bloc is heterogeneous, as is the Western bloc. In each of these bloc politics is the main factor of homogeneity. But, these blocs also correspond to an economic reality: that of the countries of old industrialization against the countries, which it is better to call new industrialization than emerging ones.

In 2000, the China-India-Russia combined represented only 15% of world GDP, while the United States, the European Union and Japan combined weighed more than 47%, or three times as much. In 2020, the two blocks are tied at around 31.5%. If we take into account the immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis, this movement is even expected to grow. The IMF has made forecasts which indicate that China and emerging countries should recover much faster from the shock of this crisis than the so-called “advanced” countries, ie countries of former industrialization. The world should see the shift to Asia amplify in the coming years.

The death of oil has been greatly exaggerated… (bcc, Mark Twain)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound influence on the energy market and on oil production. The persistence of the pandemic means that air transport, among other things, will not return to its 2019 level before, no doubt, 2024. This implies a weak demand for kerosene as estimated by the International Energy Agency Forecasts of global oil demand and post-crisis economic growth are determined by different assumptions. In the optimistic scenario, there is a rapid economic recovery in a more or less flattened “V” shape in the first half of 2021, but the demand for oil does not fully return to the pre-pandemic trend. In the more pessimistic scenario, oil demand will not reach 2019 levels until 2023, and its growth will remain well below the pre-pandemic trend. The current evolution of the pandemic suggests that we are closer to this pessimistic scenario. These two scenarios also assume that zero-emission vehicles will represent 60% of new vehicle sales by 2040, because investments are high in these technologies. Therefore, they both forecast a slowdown in demand for oil to peak in the mid-2030s at around 105-108 Mb / d. What will be the consequence?

In the medium term, OPEC will have to manage the probable return of part of the 5.7 Mb / d of unused production in OPEC countries (Venezuela, Iran and Libya) and non-OPEC countries (Syria and Yemen). OPEC will also have to deal with the resumption of US hydrocarbon production (particularly shale oil), a recovery that may be slow due to falling investment, as demand and the price of oil rise. US production of hydrocarbons has fallen by more than 2 million barrels / days, due to the closure of existing wells, reduced storage capacity and reduced demand.

The impact of COVID-19 on oil demand will therefore be profound, particularly in the event of a deep and long recession associated with a protracted pandemic. Without aggressive intervention by OPEC, the average crude oil price could thus remain below $ 50 / barrel until mid-2022. During the second half of this decade, supply and demand are expected to move closely towards equilibrium as non-OPEC production, especially from Russia, begins to decline and US hydrocarbon production reaches a low. tray. The price of oil is expected to rise to around $ 80-90 / barrel (optimistic scenario) or $ 70-80 / barrel (pessimistic scenario), even without OPEC intervention.

As we can see, however, despite all voluntarist proclamations one can hear here and there, oil will remain a major source of energy for at least the next thirty years.

The return of economic sovereignty

A more direct change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is the realization of the importance of economic sovereignty. Of course, a number of countries, China, Russia, but also the United States and India, were acutely aware of the importance of this sovereignty. The European Union, for its part, had adopted a very negligent attitude on this subject. The strong disruption of international trade caused by the pandemic caused a real shock on this point. Of course, there is no question of returning to more or less self-sufficient economies. But, the economic, social, and even strategic damage caused by free trade policies are globally more taken into account today.

This will accelerate the return of nations and the crisis of multilateralism that we could already observe. The economy is once again becoming a breeding ground for strategy. Through the policy of economic sanctions, which the United States has used and abused since well before the election of Donald Trump, we are witnessing an acceleration of the fragmentation of the world economic space. American pressure on Huawei, or on the Chinese social network “Tik-Tok” is an example. De-globalization had passed from the stage of possibility to that of concrete fact; with the effects of the pandemic it will pass from that of fact to that of major fact.

This return to economic sovereignty induces the great revenge of politics over “technology”, the triumph of decisions over the automaticity of standards. However, ” technology” is embodied today mainly in economics and finance. The pandemic heralds the return of sovereignty, and being sovereign is above all having the ability to decide. The countries will then be referred to logic of bilateral relations, or even to regional logic. It will then be necessary to seek allies.

The questioning of the “global” character of the companies linked to the INTERNET, the desire of several countries to build their “digital sovereignty” is an example of the struggle that is looming for economic sovereignty. This resurgence of politics does not mean that, in our societies, certain spaces are not governed by the technical order, and that there are spaces dominated by technical legitimacy. But, these dimensions will now become second in relation to the political, which will recover its rights. The economic and the financial will once again become instruments at the service of politics. What the political will do with it remains to be determined.

A Debt apotheosis or an end of debt?

A final point remains the explosion of both public and private debts due to the pandemic. In most countries, the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the collapse of various barriers to the expansion of public debt.

The latter has therefore increased to finance the fall in tax revenues during the confinement period but also the considerable additional public expenditure generated by the crisis. In addition, there are liquidity facilities, consisting of guaranteed loans, equity investments and the like. The result of all this is that the indebtedness of states (especially in the Western bloc) and that of companies will increase considerably by 2021. This debt will not be covered by an increase in taxes because it would imply a deep recession. Reducing public spending beyond 2022 will hardly be a possible solution, for the same reason.

These debts will therefore be absorbed by central banks, in one form or another. The same will be true of a large part of corporate debt. What will then be the consequences for the currencies (mainly the US Dollar and the Euro) of these policies? What will also be the medium-term consequences on the equity and bond markets?

One of the most striking consequences will be the influx of liquidity as a result of central bank action, while production will remain relatively depressed and the outlook for investment will be uncertain for several years. Currencies should therefore experience significant fluctuations. The current downward trend in the share in central bank reserves and the US dollar and the euro in favour of the group of “other currencies” (Sterling, Yen, Australian and Canadian dollars, Renminbi) should therefore accelerate.

Its to be noted that the Euro share went down significantly under the level of older currencies included in the Euro and that the group of “other currencies” significantly increased their share since 2010.

The economy of the “world after” the COVID-19 epidemic will therefore present both the characteristics, in a more accentuated form, of that of the world before but also a certain number of ruptures linked to this epidemic. This combination of strong trends and ruptures will result in a “de-globalized” world which will reorganize itself on the basis of bilateral alliances or regional groupings.

From our partner International Affairs

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Economy

Flattening the Eastern Hemisphere through BRI: The Geopolitics of Capitalism

Rida Fatima

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The Pivot of Asia: Conceptualizing the Peaceful Rise

The Belt and Road Initiative is a trans-continental multibillion-dollar infrastructural network linking China to what Bernard Cohen called the ‘Eurasian Continent Realm’ and the ‘Atlantic-Pacific Maritime Realm’. This economic expansion is diametrically opposed to the US hegemonic expansion. China with its economic and military development claims a peaceful rise which is non-aggressive and multilateral in its nature. Its policy of peaceful rise and development conveys to the international and the regional community, the willingness to endorse other state’s sovereignty, peace, and stability.

The BRI is considered as the ‘Project of the Century’ encompassing around 70 states, stretching around 3 continents, and affecting 60% of the world population. It is a global development agenda on the part of China to address the infrastructural gap, capacity gap, and technological gap. It is aimed at re-routing the inter-continental trade through China as a pivot. This economic saturation of China is being materialized by two of its mega-projects as indicated in figure. 1.

Overland SilkRoute Economic Belt (SREB): Consisting of six corridors for the trade of goods and services in and out of China.

Maritime Silk Route (MSR): Consisting of a chain of seaports also known as the string of pearls to the guard shipping routes.

These two projects of the BRI indicate the scope and size of its socio-economic implications for the region and the security-based ramifications for the international community.

The BRI Development Agenda: From Globalism to Regionalism

The process of globalism has been effective for the developed world however, the benefits of development and modernization have not trickled down equally in the peripheral regions of the world. That is why the world is witnessing the rise of new regionalism based on a multidimensional approach to deal with the global transformations which negatively affect the political economy of the developing and underdeveloped states. And this system is very aptly backed by China. With a history of the tributary system, China can integrate the regional states is a system of loose diplomatic relations based on shared benefits, mutual trade agreements, and interconnectivity.

The old tributary system of China is in a state of revival through the BRI. The cardinal principles of these two asynchronous simultaneous developments are indicated in figure.2

This system of new regionalism holds China as its central state through a spherical worldview rather than a vertical view purported by the US. The prospects of this system for the socio-economic prosperity of the eastern hemisphere are imminent. It is the reincarnation of the Flying Geese Model of development utilized in the development and modernization of the East Asian economies. According to this mode, wages increase vis-à-vis economic development causing industries to lose their comparative advantage. And China appears to be mitigating this through ‘going out’ for cheap labor. This new system shall reshape the following spheres which were previously dominated by the entrenched center-periphery discrepancies of West imposed structural imperialism.

Domain of InfluenceProspects of BRI-led Regionalism
SocialThe BRI led regionalism can increase the societal viability through redistribution of wealth and sharing of technology The investment pattern can show a shift from security funding to a development-based expenditure It will revamp the employment opportunities in the region and the net incomes will rise to threefold to fourfold Would lead to cross-cultural understanding in solving collective action problems within the regionThe infrastructural development will reinvigorate the interest of the regional community on the issues of environment and sustainability
EconomicConflict prevention through comparative advantage-based development A move away from dependency culture systematically induced and maintained by the international financial regions of the World Bank and International Monetary FirmWould enhance the collective bargaining leverage of the developing and the underdeveloped statesWould ease and emancipate the terms of trade which have mostly been disadvantageous to the marginalized statesEconomic development strategies and projects will become stable, consistent, and acceptable due to regional continuities
SecurityThe regional security regimes can be consolidated Collective anti-terrorism and counterterrorism strategies can be devised and implemented Regional monitoring bodies can provide effective security input to the already exiting international organizations like the FATF, UN, etc.

The shift from the globalism to regionalism offered by China is both comprehensive in its nature and appealing to the states of the Eurasian region and even extending to other regions including Africa. However, a study by Brantley Womack uses a rational choice rather than a cognitive psychological approach to understand the Chinese nuanced tributary system in form of the BRI. To him, not the Confucian morality that dictates the Chinese foreign policy of win-win approach and peaceful rise but the security dilemma which leads to a relative accommodation of the underdeveloped states to avoid the coming of the new anarchy.

Reshaping the Regional Value Chains: The SRM Mechanism and Spatial Fixes

The entire functioning of the BRI which targets the socio-economic advancement of the Eastern hemisphere is based on Surplus Recycling Mechanism (SRM) and Spatial Fix Mechanism. The underlying logic of the BRI and its investment initiatives is indicated in these two processes. These are targeted for three major purposes of growing industrial output, increasing labor employment, and accumulating financial capital. Though highly effective, both the BRI mechanisms for infrastructural development indicate intricate fault lines which can roll-back the major socio-economic gains of the mega-project by raising international skepticism. They indicate a move towards the geopolitics of the infrastructural development with little regard to the regional states. This criticism has been echoing in the US and the regional skepticism is also on the rise. So, the adverse socio-economic ramifications of the BRI based on the fault-lines of these two mechanisms are given below and there is a need that China becomes more transparent about the strategic connotations underlying its benign investment initiatives.

Some of the adverse impacts these mechanisms of the BRI could have on the socio-economic aspects of the region of the Eastern hemisphere are stated below:

Economic Ramifications

  • It will wage a new war of capital accumulation between the Eastern hemisphere led by China and the Western hemisphere led by the US. This dichotomous rise will affect the marginalized states of the region drastically as also indicated by the US-China trade war where the financial market came on the verge of collapse.
    • The peripheral states of the region might not wholly benefit from the development as it might appear as a way of China’s debt-trap diplomacy and the states might turn assertive in refuting China’s role in the region.
    • The flattening of the region based on capital accumulation needs bringing down barriers which can lead to a contagion effect even the Chinese economy falters.
    • The policy gaps in the inter-regional network can only work through a highly transparent, robust, and monitored system, which lacks inmost states of the region.

Social Ramifications:

  • The regional contagion can also spread pandemic conditions as observed during the coronavirus crisis.
    • Unlike the South East Asian region, there is no cultural emulation in other parts of the Eastern hemisphere and China’s cultural assertiveness might raise national and cultural opposition to China’s enhancing role in the region.
    • The eastern hemisphere might just end up being a captive market if the productive capacities are not utilized in the peripheral region. This will end up in neo-colonialism the global inequality will take nuanced shape but shall persist.
    • The intermingling of the workings with weak governance structures can lead to gender-disparity, sexual-based violence which can only end with the grassroot level reforms are set as a precondition for development.

These impacts of BRI can drastically revamp the social mobility of the citizens, increase interconnectivity and raise inter-cultural tolerance however, the downside of it can have major blowbacks to the projects as a whole and to the region it covers. Thus, it is high time that China addresses such issues on mutual understanding and cooperation to mitigate the negative socio-economic ramifications.

Regional and Extra-regional Dynamics:

All the infrastructural development projects for decades are accompanied by geostrategic and geopolitical motives. Such developments in a highly politicized world are determined by geopolitical constraints. The BRI is no different, it offers avenues for advancement, but it goes in hand with China’s geopolitical and geostrategic goals of ensuring capital development and security in a volatile political environment. Hence, the mega project of BRI is under intense scrutiny from both the states within the BRI and those outside of it.

Intra-regional discrepancies

The BRI project takes around 82% of the total gain and a big chunk of which goes to the high-income states of the region including China and East Asian states. This trend might increase inter-regional discrepancies with uneven globalization with some benefiting more and others remaining mostly stagnant. These unequal benefits will lead to negative spillovers feeding inter-regional skepticism.

Extra-regional refutations

The impact of the BRI led flattening of the region holds negative consequences if the links with the non-BRI states are not properly maintained. The internal trade of the region shall show consumer cost reduction, lowered trade barriers, and trade facilitation. However, the non-BRI region will face increased trade diversion which might become the reason they rebut the BRI led development.

Conclusion

The BRI project is a new mode of regionalism with a different means to the geopolitical ends. It identifies the flattening process to be a derivative of the geopolitics of globalization and capitalism. Though the socio-economic impacts of the project of the century are vast and all-encompassing yet the risks like debt sustainability and governance can adversely lead the project in another dimension if not addressed through a system of communication, coordination, and transparency. Though the menaces of capitalism cannot be completely mitigated due to its structurally enmeshed nature. But the BRI shows the alternative mode of its practice based on authoritarian capitalism of China. The world awaits what benefits it will reap. How equitable will the ‘equitable globalization’ be and how peaceful will the ‘peaceful rise’ be?

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